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The term “Aboriginal” is a 17th century British phrase that was used in the colonial technology to collectively refer to the native inhabitants of the lands to the Pacific that had been British colonies. Aboriginal creation myths refer to the beliefs that the earliest inhabitants of a specific Region held. These beliefs were there earlier than the arrival of the colonists who then came with a exclusive ideology that the indigenous locals then took up. The beliefs emphasised that spirituality is a oneness and an interconnectedness with all that lives and breathes and even with all that does not stay and breathe. The myths show the depth and richness of the cultures before the colonists brought about a more refined system of beliefs.

The aborigines considered culture and religion as one and the same. The images below will not only explain the entities that they saw as deities but also give a brief description of how they related with them and the creation myths associated with them.

The Rainbow Serpent

The Rainbow Serpent is an immortal spirit who is associated with the creation myths of the Aboriginals. Common among the Aboriginals in the Western Arnhem lands, the spirit was considered to be all-powerful as it could control forces of nature and was the giver of life. This spirit is mostly depicted as a rainbow and Snake, this depiction led to the connection between the cycle of seasons and it's significance to water and human life. For the Aboriginals in the Western Arnhem Lands, the Rainbow Spirit is mostly related with the travelling between waterholes, either underground or above them when a rainstorm is moving. The Spirit was considered to be the giver of water but could also cause severe drought or floods when angered. Due to the belief in the destructive power of the Rainbow Spirit people paid respect to the Spirit especially when approaching a waterhole. They would sing from a distance and state their intentions, this was done to show that they mean no harm to the waterhole and that they came in peace. By doing this, they hoped to show the spirit that they have the knowledge of that place and spoke the language of their forefathers and were natives of the land. Before approaching the spirit, they would take dirt and rub it all over their body so that the Spirit could smell them, only after they have followed all the necessary rituals would they now approach the waterhole.

The Rainbow Serpent is also associated with fertility; they believed that the Spirit would place spirit-children in water holes and that women would be impregnated if they wade in the water. They also believed it to be connected to the abundance of food through breeding of plants and animals, as well as the governing of the community and maintaining peace. It also has life-giving powers that send conception spirits to all the watercourses since it is in control of producing rainfall. The Rainbow Snake is held in high esteem because of it's ability to renew life by shedding it's skin and emerging anew. More or less like the phoenix, which is seen as the symbol of renewal. Aboriginal myths about the rainbow serpent often describe a dreadful creature that swallows humans only to spew them back out having being transformed by her blood.


Wandjina are rain spirits that are depicted mainly through rock art. The significance of the Wandjina Spirits was mainly felt in the Kimberly areas and was shared among different language groups such as the Ngarinyin, Worrorra, and Wunambul people. The Wandjina images are painted in noteworthy ritual sites for Aboriginal people of the region. The images were painted on the rock galleries and in caves throughout the region, marked in red and white ochre. Each image of the Wandjina that were painted on the rocks were said to be painted after the spirits were done with their creation. The paintings were said to be done by the supernatural spiritual beings and no human took part in the painting, for this reason the cave are fiercely guarded and hidden from external influence.

The Wandjina spirits were mainly associated with rains and were more so associated with seasons and the regeneration of the land. The cyclonic Wet Season brought rains to the Kimberley and elements of the rains; lightning and thunder are often used in the imagery around the head of the Wandjina. Ceremonial dances were held in order to pay homage to the spirit, the ceremony included wearing of headdress that symbolizes the lightning and thunder. The facial features of Wandjina can be seen to represent climatic features. The eyes of the Wandjina can symbolize thunderstorms and even the line between the eyes look like a nose, but is actually a power line which is used depict the transfer of energy. Small brush marks on the Wandjinas body usually characterize rain drops. When depicted with only the head and shoulders the Wandjina is said to be moving across the sky in a cloud or storm while a full-bodied Wandjina is said to be present walking the Earth. The people of the Mowanjum community, near the town of Derby in the Kimberley, believed that the Wandjina brought the law and the culture that governed them and the language they spoke. Their Dreaming stories told of the first Wandjina, called Idjair, who lives in the Milky Way and is the father of all Wandjinas. The Wandjina Wallungunder is Idjair's first son and he created the Earth and all life upon it. After creating the first human beings, the Gyorn Gyorn people. Wallungunder travelled back to Idjair to bring back more Wandjinas to give the Gyorn Gyorn people laws to live by. There are three Wandjinas that represent the three language groups of Mowanjum they are the Namarali for the Worrorra people, Wodjin or Wanalirri for the Ngarinyin people, and Rimijmarra for the Wunambul people.


Tingari refers to the Dreaming and its Laws for the Pintupi language group of that hails from the Central Western Desert. The Tingari is the Creation era when the Dreamtime Ancestors moved across the lands, creating the features of the landscape and all aspects of the natural world. This work depicts the journeys of the Tingari who were a group of ancestor beings who travelled over vast stretches of the country performing rituals, creating and shaping sites. The Tingari Ancestors stopped at specific sites throughout their journey, and the events that occurred at each site as they stopped there gave birth to the vast landscape and features of the surrounding environment, the animals and plants that are located there. These Creation events have been embodied in the song cycles learned by initiated Pintupi elders, these long narrative songs provide the Laws and social structures in which the traditional Pintupi people have lived by. As younger people are initiated into the Law, they are taken through gradual stages of knowledge of traditional matters, which becomes a life-long process. The Tingari sites have traditional custodians. The custodians are usually placed into two groups; owners and managers. The owners' role is to manage and to make sure that the site is well taken care of and that all the ceremonial rituals are properly followed. The managers' role is to organize the ceremonies and to make sure that all resources of the events are provided for and the right people are properly involved. The custodial roles of the Tingari sites are passed down along family generations and are tied to the kinship groups that are aligned with family groups. Usually, two kinship groups will have custodial roles for a Tingari site, which further binds them together by their custodial obligations. The unity of the traditional society is reinforced by the strong Laws and beliefs that are found in the Tingari song cycles.

Bush Plum Dreaming

This artwork depicts the Bush plum. The varying composition in colour and pattern reveals the geography of the Bush plum, as well as, the artists intimate knowledge of significant places, such as claypans, soakages and spinifex mounds.Bush Plum Dreaming, by Kathleen Ngala, Central Aboriginal Store

The Bush Plum Dreaming Story was mainly associated with the Aboriginals of the western and central deserts from Lajamanu and Warlpiri country to the Utopia homelands. The Bush Plum Dreaming creation Story from the Utopia region told of how during the Dreamtime winds blew from all directions carrying the bush plum seed to the artists’ ancestral lands. The first bush plum seeds of the Dreamings grew and bore fruit and dropped more seeds.

To ensure the continuity of this plant each season, the Aboriginal people pay respect to the spirit of the bush plum by painting it and recreating it in their ceremonies through song and dance. The patterns in the paintings that celebrated the Bush Plum represented the fruit of the plant, its leaves and flowers and also the body paint designs that are related with it during ceremony.


The Aborigines had a fascinating way of life and a vibrant culture. Just like any other native community they had questions that they couldn't answer and phenomena that they couldn't explain. Benjamin Disraeli (1844) argues that “Where knowledge ends, religion begins”. This means that the aboriginals struggled to comprehend the seasons and how events unfolded. This lack of answers brought about the conclusion that there must be a supernatural entity that controls the way their lives played out. The essay has touched on the myths and the beliefs that the pacific aboriginals upheld and strongly believed in as well as how the natives used stunning art to bring their superstitions to life.


Uken Kunstverk (29th January 2017), Wandjina Rain Maker Spirit, www.tachik.com/Wandjina-rain-maker-spirit

David Wroth (2015), Bush Plum Dreaming, www.japingkaaaboriginalart.com/articles/bush-plum-dreaming

David Wroth (2015), Wandjina, www.japingkaaaboriginalart.com/articles/wandjina

David Wroth (2015) Rainbow Serpent, www.japingkaaaboriginalart.com/articles/rainbow-serpent

John Miles (2016), Aboriginal People, www.Survivalinternational.org/tribes/aboriginals

Benjamin Disraeli (1844), Sybil, or The Two Nations

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